Five years ago this year I published the immeasurable fold, a selection of my best poems written from 2000-2015. Several years later during the pandemic, I recorded audio versions of all 42 poems in the book. I combined spoken word with original compositions and soundscapes to create a unique musical and literary experience. Now I am excited to release an album of those tracks.
It’s hard to believe that the oldest of these pieces are over two decades old at this point. One of the oldest is “tempest” (2000). It’s a short poem, only 16 lines, but vividly captures my memory of the night Papa died. When I composed the audio version, I aimed to express the wordless parts of that memory to extend the text. It’s one of my favorites for how viscerally it captures something I will never forget. So does “execution” (2000), about the time my father had to kill Grannie’s dog. How can something so grueling be the most humane choice?
Then there’s “ghazal” from 2003. I like this poem because it captures my spirituality in such a simple way, almost like a precursor to ideas I would express in Angkor Wat and other more recent poems, such as “sutras” and numerous more as yet unpublished. It also makes me remember my teacher, Agha Shahid Ali, who taught me the ghazal form. Shahid died in 2001. I was among his final students. My time with him was brief, but he had an impact.
If you haven’t got the idea, the immeasurable fold is full of personal memories. In many ways, it’s a diary in abstract, not unlike like an angel dead in your arms, which represents even earlier years (1995-1999). However, unlike like an angel, which is rooted in my adolescence, the immeasurable fold is an extended coming of age. It’s a bridge between my youth and the adult I became, or am becoming, because I’ll always be a work in progress. Even while the past few years have been a challenge, I know the best is yet to be because I’ll never stop learning. Never stop growing.
Yet, some of the poems look forward, too. “theodora,” written in 2011, first appeared here while later it became central to Springtime in Byzantium, a project that grew out of that poem with the works I created in Ravenna, Italy in 2014, and found full expression in the book and prints I published in 2021.
Earlier this year when I wrote that my work often gestates over long periods of time, this is exactly what I meant. And this new album is no different. Years in the making, decades if you consider some of the poems were written as far back as 2000, I couldn’t be more excited to finally have this album out in the world in spite of—or maybe because of—its tortured imperfection.
What’s next? Give me a few more years, and maybe there’ll be a movie version.
But seriously, if you’ve already read the book, please listen to the album as it may give you an entirely new perspective to hear these poems as they sound in my head. And if you haven’t read it, maybe listening is more to your liking anyway. I definitely think the album version brings something the book alone can’t provide.
Please let me know what you think of this project. I’d love to hear from you.